Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya: Cookoff Worthy Contender?

Last weekend the Hubs & I went to the Sertoma Cajun Cookoff here in Springfield.  My awesome friend Tara got us two free tickets and I was just itching to see what was there.  I’ve thought about entering, but I wanted to check out my potential competition first.
I’m used the the Sertoma Club’s annual Chili Cookoff, which is MUCH bigger with hundreds of booths.  So I was surprised to see only about 20 booths at the Cajun Cookoff. All the same, there was a wide variety of choices, from Bananas Foster Crepes to “Cajun Mac & Cheese” to tiny crawfish pies, gumbo, jambalaya…and a few of those “errrrr” entries where they make something that’s halfway between gumbo & jambalaya and you’re NOT really sure which they were aiming for.
 IMG_20140322_142812 IMG_20140322_143653 IMG_20140322_144559IMG_20140322_145201 IMG_20140322_145744
Clockwise from Top Left: Mini Crawfish Pie (yum); little-too-buttery shrimp & lobster…something (“gumbo” is my assumption, but y’all know how I feel about tomato-based gumbo); burnt roux gumbo (remember kids: if you’re making a roux from scratch, aim for the color of peanut butter, not coffee); a REALLY tasty chicken gumbo topped with fried okra; and too-blonde roux plus crunchy-rice chicken & sausage jambalaya…that for some reason also smelled like weed.  For reals.
It got me wondering:  If I enter, WHAT would  I enter?  There were no etouffees…but then again, I don’t have a “go to” etouffee recipe, and I don’t really want to deal with a full day of people asking me what “E-toofy” is.  There were only a few gumbos—but that chicken gumbo up there is a CONTENDER, I don’t think my recipe would beat it.  But I’m pretty sure I could beat the crunchy rice jambalaya…because after all, I have John Folse & his bible on my side.
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken, cubed
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 lb sliced andouille sausage
  • 1 Tbsp dry roux (or liquid roux) - optional
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1/8 cup minced garlic
  • 3.5 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • 2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
In a large (5-6 qt) pot [cast iron, if you have it], brown your chicken in the olive oil.  Then stir in the andouille, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10-15 minutes.
On top of that, add the dry roux, onions, celery, bell pepper & garlic.  Continue cooking until the veggies are all well caramelized.  Then add the chicken stock/broth/whatever, bring to a boil, the reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.  Now add the mushrooms, green onions, parsley, and stir well, and season to taste w/ S&P and hot sauce. 
Then add the brown rice, bring to a rolling boil, and then reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is done.
Once everything’s cooked, remove from heat, stir and then re-cover to keep the steam in the pot until time to serve. Check flavors & season again to taste.
Makes about 8 servings. 

Calories 371.3
  Total Fat 17.2 g
  Saturated Fat 5.5 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g
  Cholesterol 54.4 mg
  Sodium 1,106.6 mg
  Potassium 289.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 36.8 g
  Dietary Fiber 3.4 g
  Sugars 1.8 g
  Protein 18.6 g

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Alfredo

This spaghetti squash recipe is all over Pinterest, and I was itching to test it out.  As a kid, my absolute favorite thing on the planet was going to Olive Garden & getting the Fettuccini Alfredo.  You know…back in the day when “carbs were good for you” I had a hollow leg and had absolutely no idea what calories were. All I knew was that cheese and noodles and chicken & breadsticks and that magical salad were waiting for me and my dad during their Never-Ending Pasta Bowl special.  We lived somewhere between B.F.E. and a corn field, so a trip into “The City” was a VERY special and rare occasion. 

Of course now, I live in “The City”, and Olive Garden is there all the time…and unfortunately, I now know HOW many calories are in their fettuccini alfredo (1220, for the record)…so I tend to just stick with the soup & salad & breadsticks (especially the Zuppa Toscano—see my recipe for it here!)  But that doesn’t mean I crave it any less.


Finally, I can indulge my need for cheesy garlicky goodness! 


  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 tsp each of paprika, garlic salt, & onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a Dorot basil cube)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 1/2 Tbsp fat free cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons extra for topping
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes  (optional for extra heat)


Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and then place flat side down into a baking dish with about 1/2 cup of water.  Bake at 350F for about an hour.


Once squash is cooked, use a fork to gently scrape the “spaghetti” strands into the center.

In a medium skillet spritzed with olive oil, cook the chicken over medium heat; season both sides with the mixture of paprika, garlic salt & onion powder.  Cover with a lid to help speed up cooking and to help keep the chicken from drying out.  When fully cooked, slice & set aside covered to keep warm.


For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in flour, cooking for another minute while stirring. Whisk in the milk, basil & rosemary until no lumps remain.


Once heated through, add cream cheese and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and add in the Parm, Cajun seasoning, black pepper and crushed red pepper. (NOTE: I recommend including the CRP because the alfredo is a bit sweet, and the heat from the peppers really helps cut that.)


Spoon the sauce into each of the spaghetti squash halves. Use a fork to get the sauce down into the “spaghetti” so it’s well coated. Top with the chicken strips and extra Parmesan and place under the broiler of your oven for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.


Serve hot with a side salad and a slice of warm garlic toast.  We loved this because it makes two HUGE portions—that come in under 500 calories each!!!!.  Even so, it was SOOO much food that I actually had to set half aside for lunch the next day!

NutriFacts: (per serving)

Calories 456.7

  Total Fat 20.1 g

  Saturated Fat 8.5 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 9.1 g

  Cholesterol 68.9 mg

  Sodium 1,071.2 mg

  Potassium 774.3 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 31.9 g

  Dietary Fiber 5.1 g

  Sugars 11.8 g

  Protein 38.2 g

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo (Pressure Cooker)

Welcome to Missouri in March—yesterday it was 70 degrees, today it’s snowing.  Tomorrow, it will be 50 degrees.  The day after that?  Locusts, probably.  But we might as warm our bellies with some delicious gumbo while it stays cool outside!
I got a pressure cooker for Christmas last year, and imagine my joy to find a recipe for shrimp gumbo in the recipe booklet that came with it!  Since then, it’s been my new favorite way to make gumbo.  The shrimp version is much quicker, but I was craving chicken & sausage instead.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any time now, you know that I love to experiment with Cajun fusion dishes and making healthier versions of dishes… but when it comes to gumbo, I’m pretty much a purist.  Oh, sure, there was the gumbo risotto that one time (which was delish), but in general, I am a stickler:
  • Nothing WEIRD in the gumbo – if it contains corn, potatoes, carrots…essentially anything other than the Holy Trinity, okra & meat, it’s not a gumbo.  Throwing okra into a soup does not a gumbo make.
  • No tomatoes.  Gumbo should be roux-based and brown.  Tomato-based “gumbos” tend to be too thin & a bit acidic, in my opinion. 
  • If you can see through it, it’s not a gumbo.  A good gumbo should be as muddy as the Mighty Mississippi. 
That being said, there are always “bends” that can be made to the rules to make a good gumbo that’s still a bit “healthed up”.
  • Quality ingredients (use organic or home-grown peppers & celery if you can)
  • Use chicken breast rather than thigh meat to save on fat
  • Use good quality chicken or turkey sausage/andouille for the same reason
  • Use instant roux to save some extra fat as well
  • Serve with brown rice instead of white.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 6 large servings)
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 lb chicken or turkey smoked sausage (andouille if you can find it), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil (as needed)
  • 1 onion, diced (I used a mix of red & yellow)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used both red & green since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 large stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup instant roux
  • 2.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, unsalted (or 2 cups regular + 1 cup water)
  • 10 oz chopped okra, strung*
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning (or more to taste after cooking)
In your pressure cooker, brown the sausage over medium heat for about 4 minutes, then remove from the pot with a slotted spoon to reserve any of the oil from the sausage, and set aside.  Add the chicken to the pot—if the sausage was very lean, add a splash of olive oil to the pot to help the chicken brown without sticking.  Cook through (about 6 minutes).  Remove the chicken from the pot using a slotted spoon.  Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, 1/2 cup water and instant roux to the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften.
While that’s going, “string” (aka sauté) your okra.  This is a step taught to me by one of my regular customers at Martin’s in New Orleans.  Okra is inherently slimy once cooked, so it’s helpful to cook some of this sliminess out before adding it to your gumbo.  Place the okra in a large skillet over medium-low heat & stir occasionally.  Eventually, you’ll see “strings” of clear liquid forming between the pieces.  Cook for about 10 minutes, then you can add it to the rest of the ingredients.  The stringing process will likely brown the okra some, which only helps add to the flavor.
Add the meat, okra, stock, water and spices to the pot, stir, and place the lid on the pressure cooker.  Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, then remove from heat & allow to depressurize (about 15 minutes). 
Serve 1 cup gumbo w/ 1/2 cup of rice, with a side of potato salad (recipe coming soon), and hey, some pickled okra for fun.  And don’t forget the fresh French bread!
Calories 380.2
  Total Fat 10.5 g
  Saturated Fat 2.8 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.8 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
  Cholesterol 86.8 mg
  Sodium 998.8 mg
  Potassium 454.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 38.0 g
  Dietary Fiber 4.0 g
  Sugars 3.6 g
  Protein 33.8 g

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Feaux Crab Cakes

I hope you are all taking advantage of the break in the SnowPocalypse/ SnowTastrophe/ SnowMaggedon weather!  We are loving this warm up in the weather—though it also has us scrambling to get things ready over at The Scoop since the park across the street has been PACKED!  Apparently Spring Fever is in full effect & the only cure is fresh air & ice cream. :)
With the gorgeous weather, I was craving something a little lighter…something reminiscent of the Gulf.  And, preferably something that would allow me to use the random package of Louis Kemp fake crab meat I found in my freezer.  I’m sure I bought it with intentions to make my Crab & Corn Bisque some time over the winter, but that never happened. And this weather is just too WARM for bisque!  So what’s a gal to do?
KRAB CAKES.  That’s what we do.  Of course, crab cakes are ALWAYS like, a thousand times better when you have fresh, delicious, REAL Gulf crab meat, but sometimes, you live in Missouri, and you have fake crab meat that you got on sale.  So you make do.  But you can add a ton of fresh veggies to make up for it.
  • 1 lb imitation crab meat (surimi)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ¼ white onion, diced
  • ¼ cup diced mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 2 Tbsp light mayo
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1-2 eggs, whisked
  • Flour for dredging (I used a combination of flour, corn meal, & bread crumbs in equal parts)
  • ¼ cup olive oil for cooking (divided—add about 1 Tbsp at a time)
In a food processor, pulse the crab, celery & onion until diced—should be about the texture of rice.  In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, relish, seasoning, bread crumbs (1/4 cup to start with), mayo, & 1 egg, then slowly integrate the krab/onion/celery mixture.
If the mixture is too dry, add part of another egg.  If it’s too loose, add more of the breadcrumbs.  Then form into patties and refrigerate for at least one hour (though you can let these sit as long as overnight).
In a small skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When ready, dredge the patties two at a time and fry in the skillet (using the small skillet allows you to use less oil for frying).  It should take about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  When those are done, place them on a paper towel to drain off the excess, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, and make the next batch.   Makes 8 patties.
Serve with a New Orleans style remoulade sauce—here’s my recipe:
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
  • 3 tbsp cocktail sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp Creole or Spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
(For the best flavor, make this sauce the night before so the flavors can fully combine.  Or, if for time/convenience, you'd prefer to buy remoulade, here's the one I like.)
Add a light salad on the side, and you’ve got a perfect meal to enjoy on your patio!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mardi Gras 2014!!!

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!  As always, if you’re not in Louisiana, you can tune in to live parade coverage here:

Or Here


(PSsst:  Brush up on your Parade Knowledge here…)

Need a king cake?  We’ve got your recipe right here:


Or you could opt for cupcakes:

kingcake 002

Need something cold to drink?  There’s a whole list of Hurricane Recipes you could whip up:

Or you could try out a King Zulu, made with King Cake Vodka:


Or, even try this frozen version that I whipped up last night:



1 cup ice

1 cup fresh pineapple

3-4 oz King Cake vodka

1 oz lime juice

3-4 large fresh mint leaves

2 dashes cinnamon (it brings out the king cake flavor)


Blend together until frothy, and enjoy!  Garnish with fresh mint and a wedge of pineapple that’s been dipped in purple sugar.

Perfect for studying!  (Which is why I didn’t have time to make a King Cake this year)